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Exodus From Mogadishu Resumes, As Violence Continues

The UN refugee agency says the ongoing violence in Mogadishu is causing more people to leave. Catherine Weibel is a spokesperson for the UNHCR and has just returned from Somalia. From Nairobi, she gives VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua an update on the refugee situation.

“UNHCR estimates that almost 30,000 people have fled the renewed violence in Mogadishu since June. And you have to remember…between February and May, 400,000 people had fled the city, with about one quarter of them… going back to the city. And now there is again a mass exodus of people. And I was myself in Galkayo, which is in Somalia, a few days ago. And I met many families who had fled Mogadishu in the past few weeks. And many of them explained that there are now many explosions almost daily in Mogadishu and it frightens them a lot. A young man was explaining to me that when he hears gunfire in the town he can’t try to hide or to flee. So he was very afraid,” she says.

Weibel says another family described how violence frequently forced the closure of food markets and prevented people from going to work.

“There were also some young men telling they had fled the city (Mogadishu) because they were fearing arbitrary arrests. Because when explosions occur, sometimes the police come and arrest people a little indiscriminately,” she says.

The UNHCR spokeswoman says many are again fleeing to the Shabelle regions surrounding the capital, straining resources in the area. She says since January the border with Kenya has remained closed for security reasons. Weibel says the UN agency understands Kenya’s concerns and would screen any refugees wanting to cross the border into Kenya. There are camps for Somali refugees in the Dadaab area of Kenya.